#15590 Reply

Dianne Adkins

To my dear student Chan! I’m sorry it took me to long to respond to your good work! Your play of Go Tell Aunt Rhody is very, very good! Thank you!

As a teacher, my job is to give you a challenge to improve a good work, especially if you did well. As Dr. Shinichi Suzuki said, “You played so well, you can play better!” and that is truly the case for your video submission. So now I have to hard job of thinking of something to add to the already lovely rendition!


Usually, when I teach this piece, I have made continuous emphasis on the staccato bow stroke, and insisted on a stopped bow on all the pieces. Now comes Go Tell Aunt Rhody, which if you think about this song, there are words, and a story that go with it, so it is a perfect time to teach legato and bring attention to both musical interpretation, and slower bow speed.

For those reading who don’t know the words to this folk song, I offer them below, in a rhythmic pattern consistent with the music notation in this version.

Go tell Aunt Rhody, tell Aunt Rhody
Go tell Aunt Rhody, Old Gray Goose is dead.
One she was saving for her feather bed
where she would lay her weary head.
Go tell Aunt Rhody, tell Aunt Rhody
Go tell Aunt Rhody, Old Gray Goose is dead.

Well, that is a very sad song. And many teachers, for younger students, change the words to say something much more cheerful! But for purposes of introducing musical interpretation, an expression of emotion, in this case, ‘sadness’, I prefer to keep the story intact. It allows us to think about playing the piece with a lot more tenderness than previous pieces and for that, we need to discuss bow speed and legato.

Played in a smooth, flowing manner, without breaks between notes. No silence between the notes like in staccato.

You can also think about dynamic phrasing which essentially would be using volume to create a musical phrase which begins with a softer, quieter volume. Then it grows dynamically to a peak in the middle of the phrase, then dies down again to the phrase end. If we use the words above, the first phrase is this:

Go tell Aunt Rhody, tell Aunt Rhody, Go tell Aunt Rhody, Old Gray Goose is dead.

Not only is that a complete thought, with a clear beginning and end, it is a complete musical thought, as well. So starting with the first few words at a “piano” or quiet volume, grow louder as you create the arch of the phrase which peaks (gets at loudest) the last ‘Go tell’, and begins to die out in volume at ‘Old’. Notice the highest pitch (E0) is loudest. Using this guide will get you respectably through a high percentage of phrases in music. Growing louder to the highest note, then receding after to the end of a phrase. But not always.

In the middle, you can play a ‘crescendo’ to the E1, then a quick ‘decrescendo’ on E0, A3, A2. The second identical repeat of this phrase can be treated as an ‘echo’, playing it softly, still with gentle arch in volume. Then finish the song as it started with repeat of the first phrase and dynamics as described above, with a very slight ritardando of the last 5 notes.

The technique of slower bow speed should be practiced separately. Keep in mind, it is not always necessary to use a full bow. If you try to use the same amount of bow on all notes in this piece, it will feel more ‘march’-like. So let the dynamics lead, using more bow as it gets louder, and less bow when it gets softer. The important thing is to keep the bow speed consistent at the bow change. No whips (faster bow) before up bows, no heavy articulation at the beginning of the down bows, like in staccato. Think of the bow as beginning with an exhale, in fact, breathing in and exhaling as you begin the bow stroke is an excellent practice.

To practice slower bow speed, start at the lower part of the bow, slow bow and count to 100. How far were you able to count? Try again, see if you can count to a higher number. Keep a good sound! Alright. Make it easier. We’ll change that number to 20. Down bow for 20 and up bow for 20. Too hard? Alright. Let’s try 10. Down 10, Up 10. I bet you can do that.

Now use that slow bow on the rhythm of Go Tell Aunt Rhody, quarter, 8th, 8th, quarter, 8th, 8th. Open string only. Play smooth, connected bows, repeating. Play softly. Play loudly. Play softly, leading gradually to loudly. Then play loud going to soft until you fade out, letting the bow go as far as it will go, sustaining the last note.

Then use this technique on Aunt Rhody. If you do this and submit a new video, you will have captured the emotion of this song and have us all in tears. <3<3

baby goose